While stock markets climb relentlessly, humanity sits blithely at the brink of self-destruction through military conflicts and environmental devastation. But being only at the brink also means we may still be able to avoid it. I believe a key hope depends on how successful Eurasia manages to restore a world order which belongs to the world, not just one or two bullies. Unthinkable? Not according to history.
For years, the Western media have been hyperventilating between China’s “imminent collapse by five in the afternoon” and a looming “Chinese Century”. Entertaining only extreme outcomes, however, they overlook a highly probable scenario outside their thinking box — a multi-polar world evolving around a Eurasian axis. This is a scenario which dominated most of human history until very recently — the last century or two.
Presently, the American Imperium seems to be faltering due to its own incessant efforts. Some think, or worry, that China will succeed the United States as planetary CEO, Chief Arbitrary Justice, and bouncer. Better start learning Chinese then, alas, like it or not. Meanwhile, a few powerful Democracy fanatics prepare for Armageddon, anxious to slay the dragon, nuke them commies.
These zero-sum perspectives are deeply flawed, skewed by a leftover colonial mentality, distorted by a Western lens ground to American specifications. From a Chinese point of view, a “Chinese Century” would mean nothing but headache. Chinese are pragmatic folks. If you can’t answer the straight forward question: “What for?” you won’t talk them into shouldering the world’s problems, or creating new ones through invasions or colour revolutions or regime changes.
One possible answer could be: “To be like Americans today, sitting at the top, lecturing, picking teeth, enjoying resources bought with money generated by computer!” But hey, China’s been around long enough to know that’s a thankless dirty job which is toxic to the spirit of the nation. That kind of privilege is a deadly poison in the long run, worse than opium, no good for the kids. No? Look at USA today. Don’t see it? Ask the British, or anyone who had once run the world, to see if they'd like to do it again. We’ve all learned from history or experience, and are nervously awaiting the Americans to do likewise.
Right now, the American dream seems to be for Europe to fight a major war with Russia, and blow up the Euro in doing so. Without having to worry about Europe and its currency usurping, Empire America can then pivot to China in full force. Make them yellow commies stay where they belong — the assembly lines — sewing Christmas stockings, or else…
However, I believe Europe is not as stupid as it looks to America. Though afflicted by indecision and fettered by a relatively mild form of Democracy cult, Europe has plenty more experience with balancing geopolitics, and a world view which transcends national boundaries. Populist Democracy might have made it difficult for true European leaders to emerge; but a solution is not impossible. The Royal Families, especially the British throne, are historical pillars which can play a critical (yet invisible) role in this modern crisis. While the powers behind the United States don’t care much about the long-term wellbeing of the masses, the kings and queens of the old world — I know how ironic this might sound to modern ears — do care about the future of their nations which maintan the royal gardens and pay for their polo games. More significantly, they still command remarkable respect from their conventionally patriotic subjects who are becoming disillusioned with democratic politicos.
A multi-polar world is not perfect. Nations work, trade, bicker, power struggle, and occasionally fight with each other. But it’s as healthy an equilibrium as we have ever achieved. That’s why it’s the dominant historical paradigm. True, a large number of neighbouring tribes tend to be unstable, hence the old wars of Europe. But Europe has now built a historic foundation that’s reasonably coherent, albeit encumbered by an obsession with due processes and unanimity. If Britain and Germany could provide pragmatic and rational leadership (France can take charge of vision and critiques?), Europe can recover true independence within a very short period. Together with the USA (pouty as hell, no doubt), China, Russia, India, and other regional blocs, a Eurasian axis can help to make the world safer, if not necessarily better in all respects. It can’t be worse than now anyways.
A multi-polar world, judiciously orientated to safeguard self and common interests, may even start to fix the cracks in Spaceship Earth before one snaps open, swallowing the entire mindless race of Homo sapiens.
Historic transformations are inevitably ominous, threatening, and hopeful. At this critical juncture, I hope Europe will help to make a pivotal difference.
James Tam June 2015